Monthly Archives: March 2017

Snow Day on the Farm

Again, another blog without a good photo. My apologies! Wanted to take a few minutes to discuss what to do when it is going to snow or have freezing weather or low temps. Here are some ideas to keep all your critters on the farm snuggly warm and safe:

Plenty of hay and fresh water! For your horses, cows, sheep, goats, mules, llamas, etc. make sure that “everybody” has plenty of hay and fresh water to drink. Hoses may freeze. Water trough float valves may freeze. Water troughs may be miniature ice skating rinks. Here’s my take: Leave SOME room to add water on top vs fill every trough as full as you possibly can – you may later struggle to find containers to put water in as you can’t add anything over the ice block that is your trough. If you can, break the ice one top before it’s frozen solid. A heavy stick, shovel, or straight hoe may be a good tool to attempt to use. Be careful not to damage your water trough!

If your animals have an area to bed down, they would be grateful for extra (warm, dry, clean) bedding. If they need an area to bed down, they would be grateful for some warm, dry, clean bedding. Makeshift shelters can be provided with tarps, or canopies (and can be put up by just one person if need be).

Heat lamps could be run if power is available to help in extreme cold, or for very young or old animals. This could be helpful to keep waterers from freezing up if they are in a shed or barn shelter.

Protect your water lines from freezing! Detach any hoses and “walk them out” to get water out of them so it can’t “freeze up” later. Take any spray nozzles off. Open any splitters or “Y” valves (with the spiggot off) so that they won’t freeze with water in them. Make sure water lines have insulation, heat wrap, or other protection from freezing. Outdoor spiggots can be insulated with a simple styrofoam cover that is available at home improvement stores, hardware stores, etc. for a few bucks a piece.

Keep your own self warm, dry, hydrated and comfortable! If you are overwhelmed with a lot of “extra” that needs to be done, ask for help if you can. A kid out of school on a snow day might be willing to come earn some extra bucks carrying water to your goats. You might trade a few dozen eggs for some help holding gates while you run the tractor to get hay to your cattle. You get the idea. Friends, neighbors, fellow farmers…..

If caring for chickens in the cold, gather eggs at least two times per day to prevent them from freezing, if your birds are laying. Provide your birds with shelter, adequate roosts so they stay dry, and they might just enjoy a heat lamp if it is extremely cold for your particular climate.

And finally, this blog would not be complete without saying….I greatly appreciate the concern behind reminding folks to bring in household pets during severe winter weather. My farm utilizes the aid of Livestock Guardian Dogs, who were bred to stay with their charges day or night, year round, 24-7, many of whom originated from colder climates than we have in the US. If they are accustomed to being outdoors with their stock – LEAVE THEM THERE. Could you imagine sitting inside the house wearing every warm winter thing you own, all at the same time, in 70-75 degree heat?! Then, being tossed out into 20 degree temps? That’s not good, folks. It’s cruel. Same goes for shaving your Great Pyrenees in the summer. That coat insulates against cold AND heat, you will surely do more harm than good. And shame on any groomer or vet clinic who will shave them on the owner’s request “to stay cool”. I realize that sometimes for health reasons an area should be shaved…that is different entirely. LGDs (or other double-coated working dogs) who live outdoors should NOT be brought inside in the winter. Provide them with a warm, dry place to get out of the elements IF they so choose. Usually, ours won’t choose this. They have a strong instinct to be able to see and hear their surroundings and will not usually use an enclosed dog house. A lean-to offering some protection might be used, a stock or flatbed trailer beneath which to bed down might be appreciated. Access to the garage or barn might be used in severe instances, but locking them inside is NOT recommended. Let them do the job you “hired” them to do.

Likewise, if your horse stays outside all of the time, and has a lush winter coat, he/she is likely to be just fine out in the cold (unless the animal is very young or very old, or in poor weight) without a blanket. If the horse is stabled in warm, cushy stall and turned out to pasture for a few hours only each day….a blanket is a very good idea. If your horse has been clipped for show or to work, a blanket is necessary. I’m amazed at the number of horses I’ve seen wearing blankets in weather that is not especially cold, when they are out in the elements all the time.

Baby kids, lambs, calves or foals WILL appreciate a blanket if it is cold – but care must be taken to ensure that the blanket is DRY, else the poor little dear will chill very quickly as a wet blanket will not insulate, but rather hold the cold to the animal. Imagine going outside in a wet t-shirt….no fun. Take care of your furry, feathered, or hooved babies.

Lambing or Kidding Jugs or Pens…on a budget

I do not yet have any good photographs to share of this project….you will have to bear with me. My animals never have babies when it’s convenient to me. We lost our first goat kids of the season due to their birth during a horrid rainstorm at the same time in which our vehicle was in emergency need of some unplanned maintenance. It left us on the side of the road, and as I walked home….I noticed one of the LGDs (that’s Livestock Guardian Dogs), licking a tiny, adorable kid. It was three pm and over six hours went by before we were able to turn our attention to caring for the wee beasts, who had chilled. We tried our best to save them, but they only made it for a few days.

“If only I had pens for expectant Mamas,” I thought. I researched. I looked at all sorts of sheds, stalls, etc. and nothing struck a chord. My favorite chicken coop I had made was my hoop coop – an 8×8′ wooden frame built with 2x4s with two cattle panels carefully secured in place over them. (Stationary versions are best served with T-posts to support the cattle panels, portable tractor versions need a frame at the bottom and ends). Add a tarp and you have a quick and easy shelter.

Well….I need fencing for my sheep and goat friends. So, here is my design. A total of seven T-posts and four cattle (or better yet, livestock) panels – the fence like flexible ones, are the meat of this project. Add some tie wire, buckets for water and feed, possible fence or panel scraps to make hay feeders, tarp or canopy to cover (if not under a shed or barn….) and you have three small holding pens. Let me explain more!

Drive two t-posts just under 16′ apart, say about 15′, 9″ apart. Space two t-posts as evenly as possible between the first two. You may need a helper to very carefully bend a panel into a U-shape with each of its open ends resting between two of the t-posts. A third post will be added at the bottom of the U-shaped panel for extra support, and the remaining two posts will make up the likewise middle supports. Wire each of the panels firmly in place to the t-posts. Now is the time to add and fill water buckets (attach the bail of the bucket to the bottom-middle support t-post lest it get kicked over), make hay feeders, hang or attach feed buckets if you so desire, and add bedding. I use pine shavings and about two packages of compressed shavings should adequately cover the three pens.

If you are putting a shade canopy or “easy up” type shelter over the jugs, this is a good time to do so before you have critters in there who are, inevitably, horrified at the process and flipping out.

Now, attach ONLY ONE END of the last cattle panel to one end of an end pen – the goal is to lead or herd the animal into the pen nearest the connected “gate” panel that you just attached, then wire the panel to the next available T-post, leaving the panel curved to funnel in the next animal to the middle pen, where you can attach the gate then to the next available t-post and curve the rest of the panel to leave an opening for the third animal to get in to the pen, then wire the end of the panel to the remaining t-post. Huzzah! Some victory here.

If using a tarp over the jugs, it could be very carefully installed now. There is no “working” gate, if you need to attend to your animals you will need to carefully climb over the fencing. It seems to be the recommendation to keep lambs or kids penned up together for just a few days for monitoring, we have left ours in the “jugs” a little while longer. We have also used this system to hold a goat for veterinary care (your vet, however patient, does NOT want to troop all over your 10 acre pasture to find “Lucky” for whatever vetting is needed).

WARNING: Baby kids or lambs may very well be equipped to walk right through a cattle panel “jug” construction. If this is the only thing enclosing your little darlings, you may wish to use livestock panels with 2×4 spacing instead. You could wrap the whole thing with snow fencing, too, if you so desired to keep “everyone” in or out. This is a deterrent from most predators, a raptor would not be slowed down in the least by this unless you have a tarp or canopy over the top.